“She has challenged the legal system and won, she’s confronted environmental crimes, relocated the population of a South Pacific Island contaminated by radiation, provided disaster relief to victims of the 2004 Tsunami in South East Asia, and sailed against whaling, war, global warming, and other environmental crimes on every ocean of the world.”- Greenpeace International
Last week, Friendship grew. Rainbow Warrior II, Greenpeace International’s vessel retired, officially transitioning to her new life as Friendship’s third floating hospital, Rongdhonu. Read more about it here.
You might be asking this question: instead of sustaining hospital boats, which are more expensive than land hospitals, why doesn’t Friendship just build a hospital in the chars?
Don’t worry. I asked it, too.
Boats are such a pivotal part of char life; many char-dwellers rely on boats for market access, disseminating agricultural goods, fishing and migrating from char to char. If there’s anything you can take away from this blog, it’s that chars aren’t dependable. One char which is there one year might have disappeared the next. The extensive investment of money and human resources needed to build hospitals, on land or water, shouldn’t be risked in any circumstances. So, why not build a hospital on the mainland then, near the shore, instead of the chars? There is technically at least one hospital in every one of the >500 “upazilas” or counties of Bangladesh. There are mainland hospitals already near the shores, but the reason Friendship intervened in the chars a decade ago still rings true. Many people cannot access the mainland hospitals because they don’t have the money needed to afford transportation.
One could argue that small boats could be disseminated widely to char-dweller families to give them access to mainland opportunities, but having a hospital boat – one that travels to the char-dwellers and addresses their specific needs is a source of pride for many of these char communities. This way, the healthcare comes to them. Think of it this way – most men in the chars can probably, some way or another, find their way to the mainland hospital to seek care in the case of illness. But this journey is obstacle-ridden and almost impossible for women to undertake on their own. With Friendship, this isn’t the case.
Friendship’s floating hospitals travel among the chars, docking in a central, more stable char for 3-4 months at a time to provide healthcare. It’s true, char-dwellers still need some money to travel to the char where the boat is docked, but this is a considerably smaller cost. Additionally, the boat is strategically docked on an island where char-dwellers access markets for food and supplies anyway, so the char network ends up working in their favor.